The Albany, Piccadilly, next to the Royal Academy (and opposite Fortnum and Mason's). Originally built 1770-74 to the design of Sir William Chambers for the 1st Viscount Melbourne.
In the sixth chapter of The Lost World, Malone, Doyle's narrator, describes Lord John Roxon's rooms — what later in the novel he calls his fellow explorer's “snuggery at the Albany” (ch. 10) — in a way that merges characterization and setting. “Everywhere,” Malone tells us, “there were mingled the luxury of the wealthy man of taste and the careless untidiness of the bachelor.” The description of Roxon's rooms in “the famous aristocratic rookery” begins with details that convey an impression of wealth and wide-ranging taste, after which the narrator turns to those that reveal his great skills and hunter and athlete; it then returns to details that again emphasize that Roxon is a wealthy bachelor:
Standing in the doorway and glancing round me, I had a general impression of extraordinary comfort and elegance combined with an atmosphere of masculine virility. Everywhere there were mingled the luxury of the wealthy man of taste and the careless untidiness of the bachelor. Rich furs and strange iridescent mats from some Oriental bazaar were scattered upon the floor. Pictures and prints which even my unpractised eyes could recognize as being of great price and rarity hung thick upon the walls. Sketches of boxers, of ballet-girls, and of racehorses alternated with a sensuous Fragonard, a martial Girardet, and a dreamy Turner. But amid these varied ornaments there were scattered the trophies which brought back strongly to my recollection the fact that Lord John Roxton was one of the great all-round sportsmen and athletes of his day. A dark-blue oar crossed with a cherry-pink one above his mantel-piece spoke of the old Oxonian and Leander man, while the foils and boxing-gloves above and below them were the tools of a man who had won supremacy with each. Like a dado round the room was the jutting line of splendid heavy game-heads, the best of their sort from every quarter of the world, with the rare white rhinoceros of the Lado Enclave drooping its supercilious lip above them all.
In the center of the rich red carpet was a black and gold Louis Quinze table, a lovely antique, now sacrilegiously desecrated with marks of glasses and the scars of cigar-stumps. On it stood a silver tray of smokables and a burnished spirit-stand, from which and an adjacent siphon my silent host proceeded to charge two high glasses.
In the sentence immediately following, the narrator turns to “the famous Lord John Roxton” himself, who offers him a whiskey and a cigar, sits down, and “looked at me long and fixedly with his strange, twinkling, reckless eyes—eyes of a cold light blue, the color of a glacier lake.”
Through the thin haze of my cigar-smoke I noted the details of a face which was already familiar to me from many photographs—the strongly-curved nose, the hollow, worn cheeks, the dark, ruddy hair, thin at the top, the crisp, virile moustaches, the small, aggressive tuft upon his projecting chin. Something there was of Napoleon III., something of Don Quixote, and yet again something which was the essence of the English country gentleman, the keen, alert, open-air lover of dogs and of horses. His skin was of a rich flower-pot red from sun and wind. His eyebrows were tufted and overhanging, which gave those naturally cold eyes an almost ferocious aspect, an impression which was increased by his strong and furrowed brow. In figure he was spare, but very strongly built—indeed, he had often proved that there were few men in England capable of such sustained exertions. His height was a little over six feet, but he seemed shorter on account of a peculiar rounding of the shoulders.
Doyle thus employs several means of characterizing this already famous member of the expedition. He begins by amassing details of Roxon's home that establish his social, economic, and marital position, after which he describes his physical appearance with both visual details and allusions to historical and literary figures — in this case, Napoleon III and Don Quixote.
- The Lost World's Sir John Roxon as Doyle's ideal upperclass gentleman sportsman explorer
- Racism and genocide in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World
Last modified 20 November 2013